Genus: Rubus (Bramble, Blackberry, Loganberry,
Youngberry and Raspberry genus)
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Eurosid I > Order: Rosales > Family: Rosaceae
About 250 species, found worldwide but mainly in the
temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Species discrimination can be
difficult in Rubus because of the extensive natural and artificial
hybridization that has occurred. There are about eight species native to
southern Africa, and nine species and one hybrid that are naturalised to the
region. Since earliest times, people have collected berries
from species of Rubus. They are eaten raw, cooked, or made into other
products such as jam and juice. Berries have high levels of vitamins A, B1 and
C. Dry leaves are used in herbal teas and both leaves and roots are used
There are about 250 species of Rubus and they are found
worldwide but mainly in the temperate regions of the
northern hemisphere. There are 17 species recorded from southern Africa,
some indigenous and others naturalised.
Species are pioneers of open and disturbed habitats.
Berries are eaten by birds which enables seeds to be dispersed widely. Plants
are able to spread vegetatively by sending out sucker shoots, and rooting where
branches (canes) contact the ground. Thorns along the branches provide a certain
amount of protection from trampling, herbivory by mammals, and make it difficult
for mammals to eat the fruit. With these sorts of properties it is no wonder
that some Rubus species have become weeds. For instance, they are a big
problem along roads, streams and other disturbed places in grasslands in the
foothills of the Drakensberg (e.g. around Underberg) in KwaZulu-Natal, South
The taxonomy of Rubus is very confused because of
the extensive hybridization that occurs between wild species. In addition, new
varieties have been developed through inter-species hybridization. Commercial
species and varieties originate mainly from Eurasia and North America. Selection
of domesticated varieties does not have a long history. Raspberry (Rubus
idaeus) started being cultivated in England from the mid 1500's. New
domesticated varieties of Rubus were being developed in North America
from about the 1800's. Harvesting of wild species
still occurs extensively, mainly by small scale commercial operations.
Species native to southern Africa
of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).
- Berries are eaten raw, cooked or used in making
jam, juice, jelly, syrup, wine and liqueur. They are rich in:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B1
- vitamin C
- organic acids
- Roots and leaves contain tannins and flavonoids.
Dried leaves are made into tea and are used in herb tea blends. They are
claimed to have various medicinal properties as do the roots which are dried
and used in decoctions (i.e. extracts obtained through boiling).
Rubus cuneifolius and Rubus x
proteus (American bramble, Amerikaanse braam) are
declared Category 1
invasive plants and Rubus fruticosus (European
blackberry, Braam) is a declared
Category 2 invasive plant in South Africa.
Brown, D. 2002. The Royal Horticultural
Society New Encyclopedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley,
Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of
Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.
Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of
crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.
Text by Hamish Robertson